About 175 Idaho Falls School District 91 fifth-graders braved uphill climbs, sweaty helmet hair and sticky, 80-degree temperatures Friday to take part in the district’s first-ever fifth-grade bike ride, put on as part of National Bike Month.
The students from A.H. Bush and Westside elementary schools spent the day making the roughly 6-mile round-trip to Tautphaus Park park to enjoy games, a visit to the zoo, a picnic lunch and plenty of fun.
“It’s funner to be here (outside) because we’re not stuck inside in class all day,” 11-year-old Taya Wood said. “We get to get out, be loud, play and get exercise.”
It wasn’t about skipping school. The district’s Safe Routes to School program coordinated the event as one of several activities it puts on each year.
The program is part of a national effort to encourage kids to walk or bike to school. Programs examine conditions around schools, conduct projects and activities to improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and increase air quality around schools — all to make walking and bike riding safer and more appealing to children.
Bonneville Joint School District 93 has put on an annual fifth-grade ride for several years, but this year marks the first time District 91 has done so. Next year, District 91 hopes to increase participation beyond the two pilot elementary schools, Safe Routes to School coordinator Heide Weatherby said.
“We’re always trying to implement the (Safe Routes to School) and this is just one more activity to get kids excited to ride a bike to school,” she said. “We look at this as just one more incentive for them.”
Along with the bike ride, the program put on a bike challenge for two different District 91 elementary schools this month. As part of that challenge, children were encouraged to ride their bicycles to school at least 12 times throughout the month of May.
In October, the program also coordinated International Walk to School Day in which 10,000 students from 26 elementary schools between District 91 and District 93 participated.
Eleven-year-old Janeth Mendoza said she doesn’t ride a bike all that often. For the big ride Friday, she used a loaned bike and helmet — children without bikes received loaned equipment from the city of Idaho Falls and Bill’s Bike Shop.
“It was kind of tiring climbing the hills and a little sweaty, but really fun,” Janeth said. “(After today) I’m going to try to ride more because it’s fun and really good exercise.”
Brooklyn Bradshaw, 11, said the toughest part was riding up the steep, Pancheri Bridge, but riding down made it all worthwhile.
“When I’m at the bottom of the hill, I just look at the top and watch it until I get there,” she said. “And then, going downhill was awesome.”
Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.